Responsible for fatally shooting an unarmed man on the ground with his empty hand in the air, a former Philadelphia police officer was recently charged with first degree murder, third degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and possession of an instrument of crime.
In December 2017, Philadelphia Police Officer Eric Ruch Jr. reportedly attempted to pull over Dennis Plowden because of a patrol alert that connected his vehicle to a homicide. But according to investigators and other officers, no patrol alert had been broadcast over the police radio.
“They called the number into police radio to stop a ‘mover,’ which is police slang for any moving vehicle. There’s no information on the police radio before the incident that indicates that anyone knew for sure that this vehicle may have been involved in a homicide,” Assistant District Attorney Vincent Corrigan said during a press conference on Friday. “It’s my understanding since [then], that this is not an avenue of inquiry. The homicide in question is still an open case.”
While attempting to flee, Plowden struck the door of an unmarked patrol car and three parked cars before finally crashing into a pole. Stumbling out of the vehicle, Plowden fell to the ground and “appeared to be trying to obey police commands given by police officers at the scene at that time,” according to Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner.
Within six to eight seconds of arriving on the crash scene, Ruch fired at Plowden who was raising his empty left hand in the air. Although several other officers were at the scene, none of them fired their weapons at Plowden.
“According to this presentment, Eric Ruch killed Dennis Plowden while on duty, by firing his gun directly at Plowden’s head as Plowden sat on the ground with his left empty hand raised and clearly visible,” Krasner said in the news conference on Friday. “I mention that because the bullet tore through the fingers of that left hand before it entered Plowden’s head.”
Plowden had been transported to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Several months after the shooting, Ruch was fired for violating the department’s use-of-force policy when he shot Plowden. On Friday, the former police officer surrendered to law enforcement and was charged with first degree murder, third degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, and possession of an instrument of crime.
“We will represent former police officer Eric Ruch Jr. against these serious charges. Our attorneys will review the allegations and appropriately defend this officer,” said John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5. “Officer Ruch Jr. is entitled to due process, and we believe the judicial system will protect his rights to a fair trial.”
Last year, Plowden’s widow, Tania Bond Plowden, filed a federal lawsuit against Ruch, three other officers, and the city of Philadelphia. The suit, which claims that Plowden and his widow suffered various violations of their constitutional rights, seeks monetary damages in excess of $150,000.